Factors to Consider Before Selecting Material for 3d Printing

3D printing materials, usually called by their traditional names such as ABS, nylon and more are available in the majority, but you have to be aware that many of the 3D printing materials only mimic true thermoplastics. Choosing the right material allows you to improve the shape, quality and function of your 3d printed part. Hence, selection of the correct 3D printing material is highly essential.

To help you choose the right material for your product, we have developed a reference guide that describes the advantages and usage of some of the most commonly used materials for 3D printing.

ABS

ABS is the most popular material used in 3D printing, which constantly melts at about 225 degrees Celsius, which can be easily achieved with small, safe home electronics. ABS has a relatively high “glass transition temperature” of about 100 degrees. That is the temperature above which a plastic goes from its strong state to an adaptable state where it can lose its shape. These attributes make ABS extremely reasonable for 3D printing of useful parts, for example, spare parts for machines or objects that are continuously exposed to high temperatures, for example, boiling water, fire or sunlight.

3d printing in ABS
3d printed part in ABS

ABS breaks down in (CH3)2CO, also known as acetone. This element is mostly used to smoothen the surface of a 3D print. Sanding an ABS print and after that cleaning with (CH3)2CO chemical will break up the external layer, eventually smoothing it and decreasing the perceivability of the layers in print. To take full advantage of this feature, smooth prints with acetone steam treatment should be used. It gives a very bright finish.

The negative side of ABS is the smell it produces when it is melted – which is not pleasant or healthy to live or work around – and the fact that it expands and shrinks in the process of being heated and cooled again. Here shrinkage can be of a huge problem for 3D printing since it causes 3D prints to move up while cooling too quickly, which is called distorting.

To counteract this, we use a heated print base, preferably in a closed and heated construction chamber, so that ABS remains hot during printing and can cool slowly when printing is performed. A heated print tray and a heated chamber often increase the price of a 3D printer and consume much more electricity, but it is necessary to get the best results.

PLA

PLA melts at a lower temperature between 190 and 210 degrees and does not smell bad in the process. In fact, many people like the smell of molten PLA. Since the PLA flows more smoothly than ABS, you can print more definite articles with it at higher paces.

It is especially good at producing sharp and clear edges. It is also much less expensive to deformation, so you will not necessarily need a warm bed to print PLA. However, if you want to print objects with a large flat bottom surface without the edges deforming a bit, a little heat (approximately 60 degrees) of the bed can counteract this. PLA prints have a relatively bright surface compared to ABS, but the amount of gloss depends on the supplier, the color and the printing temperature.

3d printing in PLA
3d printed part in PLA

Unlike ABS, PLA does not dissolve in acetone. It can be dissolved in Sodium Hydroxide. Some people use PLA as dissolvable supports for ABS impressions in double extrusion printers, but I advise you only to use sodium hydroxide when you have a nozzle clogged by PLA. And still, you must choose a container very carefully, because sodium hydroxide can also dissolve some types of glass.

For PLA we prefer the optional heated bed to be adjusted around 60 degrees since this is the glass transition temperature of the PLA and gives best results. However, this also means that if you are looking for a better finish and longevity of parts, you must opt for Nylon PA2200, as PLA above 60 degrees can start to bend. Also, it is quite brittle, so it is not a preferred material for functional parts that have to free of fitment issues.

Nylon

The nylon filament is ideal if you want to take a step further in the quality of your 3D designs. Nylon is a synthetic polymer widely used in areas, from textiles to the automotive industry, food industry and more.

Nylon PA2200 and Nylon PA12 are one of the most common filaments in 3D printing, although not as much as PLA or ABS because the latter two is lower in cost as compared to Nylon. However, Nylon stands out for its properties, especially its resistance, durability and flexibility. These qualities are incomparable and make Nylon one of the best materials in Polymer 3D printing.

3d printing in SLS
3d printed part in Nylon PA2200

When we talk about Nylon, we cannot forget to discuss filament Nylon PA2200 and Nylon PA12. Nylon PA2200 and Nylon PA12 filament is specially oriented to the industrial field and mostly used for professional sectors. One of the great advantages of nylon filament is that it is a material with high resistance. It is more resistant to shock than PLA and ABS, and also less brittle. This makes it an ideal printing material for manufacturing gears, mechanisms or complex parts.

Nylon PA2200 and Nylon PA12 used for SLS and MJF 3d printing exhibits greater flexibility and durability, which automatically makes it a bit costlier, but the results make it worth.

Resins

Resins are used explicitly with SLA 3D printing technology. The 3d printed parts made from resin are generally expensive than the other polymers used for 3d printing. However, the surface finish is very smooth as compared to the other 3d printing processes.

3d printing in SLA
3d printed part in Resin

They are good for making visual prototypes and are often used for making masters for soft tooling and patterns for investment casting.

3d printing is diverse in nature and has several underlying technologies within. Different 3d printers exhibiting different 3d printing technologies are constrained by the raw materials that they can use for production. Having in depth knowledge of 3d printing, we at Morphedo are able to guide you for the selection of the material and 3d printing technology to go for making any part that will be used for a specific application.

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